The list of Sly and Arnold flicks is impressive beyond belief. The Rocky series, the Terminator series and the Rambo series are just three of the many works between these two titans of action. They have generated billions in box office over the years. But strangely the two haven’t worked together much. Escape Plan rectifies that situation.
Sylvester Stallone plays Breslin, a former lawyer who has found a niche industry with breaking out of prisons. As our little drama opens, Breslin is in a maximum security facility. We see his mind work in watching for routines and flaws in the system. After the thrilling opening escape, we get to the meat of the story. Breslin and his partner Lester Clark (Vincent D’Onofrio) are offered to break out of a super maximum security prison where the worst of the worst are held. It is run by a clandestine organization. He’s even offered twice his normal salary, and greed drives Breslin to take the job.
Almost immediately he’s abducted on a French Quarter street. Breslin is then drugged and his tracer chip is cut out of his arm. In his foggy haze, he witnesses a murder. When he wakes up, Breslin finds himself in the prison – with glass walls and 24 hour surveillance, there is no privacy. The prison itself looks more like the inner workings of an industrial complex. The inmates all have a letter on their shirt backs, from A to D. The guards who watch them all wear black masks and body armor that looks like something out of Judge Dredd. Breslin also finds out that the warden he expected is not the man in front of him. Warden Hobbes (Jim Caviezel) is the man in charge. He is a hard-nosed task master who has read Breslin’s book on prisons but never makes the connection. He knows that every person in his care will never leave.
One of the prisoners is Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger). He has information that Hobbes wants. Rottmayer refuses to talk. Very soon, Breslin befriends Rottmayer and the two begin to plot a way out of their captivity. Rottmayer knows that Breslin is not a convict and believes there is something more to the man. Breslin also knows that they need help from the outside which comes from the prison doctor (Sam Neill). They also befriend a fellow inmate to make their escape.
On the outside, Abigail (Amy Ryan) is trying to find out where her friend and co-worker Breslin has disappeared to. She and Hush (rapper 50 Cent) begin to follow the clues to find their favorite escape artist, but they are stopped by Lester Clarke who seems to have his own agenda. The entire film twists and turns toward a giant escape from the confines of the prison. The last 20 minutes are thrilling; it just takes a long 90 minutes to get to that point. This is not The Great Escape or even The Shawshank Redemption.
Both Arnold and Sly still look great in their 60s. There is this rogue charm that runs between the two as they interplay with each other. The duo are not enemies but they are not friends. They are two men who are thrown together by circumstance who respect each other, they just don’t trust each other. It looks as if they are both having the time of their lives playing both to and against their action hero archetypes.
Jim Caviezel is best known as playing Jesus in The Passion of the Christ. This role could not be any further than that one. He snarls and fumes almost as if he were an arch villain. It is an almost unbelievable reading of the character. This is one part that needed a different cast member. Even though 50 Cent is given a star billing, his performance is almost a ‘blink and you miss it’ role. He is so far away from his urban persona, the rap artist is almost unrecognizable. Amy Ryan comes across much better as the truly sole woman of the piece. Her job is to look worried which is about all she does, but she does it well.
The film is written by Miles Chapman and Jason Keller. They try to build two different films and twist them together. Half the film is a standard action/adventure staple and the other half is a logical study of finding flaws in the system. Neither one works that well which means that the end product becomes a confusing mess of a screenplay. It would have worked better as a standard action piece. Director Mikael Hafstrom is best known for the horror flick 1408. The director seems to be overpowered by his cast. He doesn’t take charge of his actors but lets them overact and push the envelope. While he sets the cast pieces in perfect motion, he just gets lost after a while. The ending is exciting but it is a slow sizzle to get to that point. ESCAPE PLAN is likely going to be the kind of film that plays often during blustery afternoons on cable.